Stanislaw Lem: Memoirs of a Space Traveler

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Stanislaw Lem Memoirs of a Space Traveler
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    Memoirs of a Space Traveler
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    Harvest / HBJ
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    Фантастика и фэнтези / на английском языке
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    New York
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Memoirs of a Space Traveler: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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“The best science fiction writer working today in any language.” — In this widely acclaimed sequel to , Ijon Tichy, space traveler of future centuries, discovers that “out there” isn’t very different from “down here.” Especially when he finds a galactic society over which the Plenum Moronicum presides, which appoints as ruler a ruthless Machine; the inhabitants, docilely cooperating in their own destruction, go by the name of Phools. Tichy seems to attract inventors of splenetic genius, such as the madman who has invented the soul, or another who invents kitchen appliances so good at their jobs they might as well be wives or slaves. Throughout these nine wild adventures, surprise follows witty surprise for the discerning reader of riotously imaginative fiction. STANISLAW LEM, who “knows science well enough to be playful about it” ( ), lives in Poland and is the author of books translated into nearly thirty languages, including and . In this sequel to , Ijon Tichy, space traveler of future centuries, discovers that “out there” isn’t very different from “down here.” Throughout these nine wild adventures, surprise follows witty surprise. Line drawings by the Author. * * *

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Finally, as for Lab Assistant Bunch, though he was not capable of doing anything himself, he demanded that his cronies immortalize his part in the Creation of the World. He wanted — and I shudder as I write this — he wanted his name to be visible from every corner of the firmament. When Roth explained to him that stars cannot form permanent monograms or letters, because of their movements, Bunch desired that they at least be grouped in large clusters, or bunches. This, too, was done.

On October 20, when I placed my finger on the button of the console, I had no idea what I was actually creating. It came to light a couple of days later, when we were checking the tapes and discovered what had been recorded, by the vile trio, in our positron. The professor was crushed. As for me, I did not know whether to blow out my brains or someone else’s. Eventually reason prevailed over anger and despair, because I knew that nothing could be changed now. I did not even take part in the interrogation of the miscreants who had befouled the world I created. Professor Tarantoga told me about half a year later that the three intruders had played in the Creation a role that religion usually assigned to Satan. I shrugged. What sort of Satan did those three asses make? But the blame is mine; I was careless and left my post. If I wanted to look for excuses, I could say the culprit was the Bombay pharmacist who sold me, instead of decent mosquito repellent, an oil that attracted them as honey does bees. But in this way you could blame God-knows-whom for the flaws in existence. I do not intend to defend myself thus: I am responsible for the world as it is and for all human failing, since it was in my power to make both better.


On day 1,006, having left the local system of the Nereid Nebula, I noticed a spot on the screen and tried rubbing it off with a chamois cloth. There was nothing else to do, so I spent four hours rubbing before I realized that the spot was a planet and rapidly growing larger. Circling this heavenly body, I was not a little surprised to find that its vast continents were covered with regular patterns and geometric configurations. I landed with due caution in the middle of an open desert. It was covered with small disks, perhaps half a meter in diameter; hard and shiny, as if turned on a lathe, they ran in long rows in various directions, forming the designs I had noticed from a high altitude. After making a few tests, I went cruising just above the ground seeking an answer to the riddle of the disks, which intrigued me enormously. During a two-hour flight I discovered, one after the other, three immense and beautiful cities; I touched down in a square in one of them. But the city was completely deserted; houses, towers, squares, everything was dead; no sign of life anywhere, or any trace of violence or natural disaster. More amazed and bewildered than ever, I flew on. Around noon I found myself above a vast plateau. Catching sight of a shiny building near which there was some sort of movement, I immediately landed. A palace rose from the rocky plain, sparkling as though cut from a single diamond. A wide marble staircase led up to its gilded portal. At the foot of the staircase several unfamiliar beings were milling about. I looked at them close up. If my eyes did not deceive me, they were alive and, moreover, resembled humans so much (especially from a distance) that I dubbed them “hominiformicans.” I was prepared with this name because I had spent time during my voyage thinking up nomenclature, in order to have terms handy for such occasions. “Hominiformicans” fit the bill, for these beings walked upon two legs and had hands, heads, eyes, ears, and lips. True, the lips were in the middle of the forehead, the ears under the chin (a pair on each side), and the eyes — ten in all — were arranged like rosary beads across their cheeks. But to a traveler like me, who has encountered the most bizarre creatures in the course of his expeditions, they were the spit and image of humans.

I approached them, keeping a safe distance, and asked what they were doing. They made no reply, but continued peering into the diamond mirrors that rose from the lowest step of the staircase. I tried to interrupt them once, twice, three times, but seeing that this had not the slightest effect, in my impatience I shook one vigorously by the shoulder. Then they all turned in my direction and seemed to notice me for the first time. After regarding me and my rocket with some astonishment, they asked me several questions, to which I willingly replied. But because they kept breaking off the conversation to gaze into the diamond mirrors, I was afraid I would not be able to question them properly. Finally, however, I managed to persuade one to satisfy my curiosity. This Phool (for, as he told me, they are called Phools) sat down with me on a rock not far from the stairs. My interlocutor fortunately possessed considerable intelligence, which showed in the gleam of the ten eyes on his cheeks. He threw his ears over his shoulders and described the history of the Phools, as follows:

“Alien voyager! You must know that we are a people with a long and splendid past. The population of this planet has been divided from time immemorial into Spiritors, Eminents, and Drudgelings. The Spiritors were absorbed in the contemplation of the nature of the Great Phoo, who in a deliberate creative act brought the Phools into being, settled them on this globe, and in His inscrutable mercy surrounded it with stars to illumine the night and also fashioned the Solar Fire to light our days and send us beneficent warmth. The Eminents levied taxes, interpreted the meaning of state laws, and supervised the factories, in which the Drudgelings modestly toiled. Thus everyone worked together for the public good. We dwelt in peace and harmony; our civilization reached great heights. Through the ages inventors built machines that simplified work, and where in ancient times a hundred Drudgelings had bent their sweating backs, centuries later a few stood by a machine. Our scientists improved the machines, and the people rejoiced at this, but subsequent events showed how cruelly premature was that rejoicing. A certain learned constructor built the New Machines, devices so excellent that they could work quite independently, without supervision. And that was the beginning of the catastrophe. When the New Machines appeared in the factories, hordes of Drudgelings lost their jobs; and, receiving no salary, they faced starvation…”

“Excuse me, Phool,” I asked, “but what became of the profits the factories made?”

“The profits,” he replied, “went to the rightful owners, of course. Now, then, as I was saying, the threat of annihilation hung…”

“But what are you saying, worthy Phool!” I cried. “All that had to be done was to make the factories common property, and the New Machines would have become a blessing to you!”

The minute I said this the Phool trembled, blinked his ten eyes nervously, and cupped his ears to ascertain whether any of his companions milling about the stairs had overheard my remark.

“By the Ten Noses of the Phoo, I implore you, O stranger, do not utter such vile heresy, which attacks the very foundation of our freedom! Our supreme law, the principle of Civic Initiative, states that no one can be compelled, constrained, or even coaxed to do what he does not wish. Who, then, would dare expropriate the Eminents’ factories, it being their will to enjoy possession of same? That would be the most horrible violation of liberty imaginable. Now, then, to continue, the New Machines produced an abundance of extremely cheap goods and excellent food, but the Drudgelings bought nothing, for they had not the wherewithal…”

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